In Part I of Ratings and Reviews, I shared my mindset about various topics a reader can consider when writing a review and/or setting a rating. Part II introduces my personal list that I take into consideration in the actual writing of the review.
This is one of the most important aspects to me in a novel. When I talk about originality, it has little to do with the plot of the book. Some of the most amazing authors take common tales and make them their own. What I look for is the author’s presence in the story. I appreciate bold new ideas that stretch what is the norm in literature. I truly believe books are art. Authors paint a picture for the reader to envision. Whether it is the book cover, formatting, style, or word choice, I love being able to say, “I see what you did there.”
Hidden Messages or Easter Eggs:
I love finding little things in a book that have been hidden specifically to be found. While I don’t share these tidbits in my reviews, they do add to my overall ratings.
It isn’t as much what the plot is about, as how it is developed. I look for a good flow from start to finish, without the presence of any plot holes. Any ‘head scratching’ moments take away from my personal enjoyment of the book. The questions I ask myself are:
a) Does it make sense?
b) Is the flow steady? Did anything feel rushed?
c) If it is a series, does one novel lead into the next?
d) Could I visualize the events?
e) If ‘no’ was answered to any of the above, what would fix the issues?
There are different things that make each genre unique. It’s important that a writer knows how to portray the genre they are writing in. I don’t want to know who the murderer is on the first page of a mystery novel. If it is a thriller, however, knowing that information early on may be necessary. It should be mentioned that a book can fall under two or more different genres, an example being romantic comedies.
The story as a whole needs to have some credibility. If an author is writing about a subject, he or she should have a good grasp of that subject. I wouldn’t be able to write a believable scene involving a bee swarm if I didn’t first take the time to learn the basics about bees.
While it may be argued that fantasy is the exception to the rule, since it is entirely made up, the writing still needs to have something that makes it possible. If an author tells me an orange is purple, there should be an explanation as to why. That explanation may simply be that the story is set in a different world where fruit similar to oranges are all purple. Fantasy works also need to have consistency. If oranges are purple, they cannot one day be orange without explanation.
An author’s characters are what make his or her readers invested in the novel. If the audience cannot relate to or feel emotion for the characters, they aren’t likely to read other works by the same author or recommend a book to a friend.
The Intended Audience:
When reading a book, I always take note of who the author is targeting as potential readers. Language used in a young adult fantasy book isn’t the same as what I would expect in an adult epic fantasy. Each should be rated separately based on the purpose they were meant for. I make note of the use of adult language or content if I believe it could create an issue for some readers.
If there is a topic that could be upsetting for some audiences, I will suggest in my reviews that the author add a warning to his or her description.
Major formatting issues, which were not intended by the author, can be distracting. If a paragraph starts in the middle of a sentence I will bring it to the attention of the author.
We all have our favorite genres and I am no different. My personal favorite books fall into the paranormal romance category. No matter how hard I try to keep a level playing field, I end up a bit biased when reviewing books of this nature.
Whatever you use as your personal standards, your reviews, both good and critical are welcomed by the majority of authors. Thanks for reading.